Chymists and Chymistry: Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry

Chymists and Chymistry: Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry

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Principe, Lawrence M., ed., 2007, xiii + 274 pp., illus., cloth bound and jacketed

This work brings together the work of more than twenty eminent researchers from around the globe. Presented at an international conference held at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia in 2006, these papers cover a broad range of topics from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment.

Chymistry (that is, alchemy and early chemistry) is currently receiving an unprecedented amount of scholarly attention. Long-held misunderstandings are being replaced by a wealth of fresh perspectives and discoveries, as scholars progressively reveal alchemy’s crucial place in early modern culture and its contributions to early modern science. The collection features work on the perennial issues of symbolism, textual exegesis, transmutation and the danger of fraud, treatments of the intersections of alchemy with fine art, theology, archeology, and gender, as well as new studies of a host of early modern notables of diverse stripes such as Newton, Libavius, Boyle, Kircher, Boerhaave, Paracelsus, Stahl, and Khunrath.

“ . . . It is, however, to be stressed that the matter is still debated, and serious objections against Newman’s and Principe’s views combining alchemy and early chemistry have been raised by a number of historians . . . That said, this book deals with a variety of themes related to alchemy and early modern chemistry, showing the complex interplay of theory, laboratory practice, religious views, language and images. Chymists and Chymistry stands out as a major contribution to our understanding of early modern science.” —Metascience, 2010, 19:63–70

“ . . . gives a sense of the field, including much detailed information useful to historians of alchemy and chemistry. But it will also be of interest more widely to historians of science because it illuminates in important ways the dynamics of early modern natural knowledge-making . . . ” —BJHS, 2009 (March)

“ . . . reflects the breadth of current interest in pre-Lavoisier chemistry and alchemy. Because of this I have already recommended it to several prospective graduate students in the field . . . a very important book; and we may congratulate the editorial work of Professor Principe, the production skills of Science History Publications, and the support of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.” —Bull. Hist. Chem., vol. 33/2

“ . . . brings together papers with an immense scope, straddling the eras of Paracelsus and Antoine Lavoisier. Particularly welcome are contributions on archaeological analyses of alchemical equipment—a neglected arena in a subject usually reliant on text alone . . .” —Nature, 2007 (18 October)